Industry's wallets willing for spectrum

Money talks, and to free radio spectrum for third-generation wireless (3G) applications, it will need to speak up, according to several members of a panel discussion held at the Capitol on Thursday.

But federal users of key spectrum space may not be ready to listen.

The panel, sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus' Advisory Committee, explored the dilemma involved in allocating spectrum for 3G applications, which promise to bring high-speed mobile Internet access.

Spectrum bands selected for 3G use by a worldwide consortium are used in the United States by a number of federal users, most notably the Defense Department and the Instructional Television Fixed Service, which provides distance-learning services across the country. Reports issued last week by the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that sharing spectrum bands with industry would be difficult and that moving federal users to new bands, if possible, would be expensive.

Moderator Gerry Waldron compared the spectrum situation to a game of Monopoly where "there's a house or hotel on every spot on the board already." Only in this case, wireless companies that "land" on DOD or ITFS properties will have to pay more than just rent — they'll pay for them to move altogether.

However, panelists said industry likely would be willing to pay the costs of moving federal "incumbents" because of 3G's moneymaking potential.

By law, any incumbents relocated must be reimbursed, and industry should be able to pay enough to make it worthwhile for them, said Tom Segrue, chief of the FCC's wireless bureau. "There should be enough money to make things work out," he said.

However, "you can only move and talk about money when there's someplace to go," said Leslie Harris, president of Leslie Harris and Associates, which represents several ITFS services. The recent spectrum reports noted the difficulties in moving established users, she said.

In addition, moving ITFS services could disrupt a plan to provide much-needed broadband access to rural and inner-city areas just as that effort is about to shift into high gear, she said.

"There's more at stake here than moving out incumbents," Harris said. "It's much more complicated than that."

Featured

  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.